In 2016 the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) stated 2.4 million people have Hepatitis C living in the United States. People born from 1945-1964 are “baby boomers.” The CDC recommends that all baby boomers be tested for Hepatitis C because they could have been infected by medical equipment before universal precautions were adopted or infected by blood products before widespread screening was done. Screening of blood products started in 1992 for viruses in blood.
The Hepatitis C virus is spread by contaminated blood. For example: sharing needles or tattoo equipment from a person already infected. A pregnant mother can pass it along to their unborn baby while pregnant. Coming into contact with infectious fluids or secretions is also another way a person can become infected.
Symptoms of having Hepatitis C are:
- Bleeding easily
- Bruising easily
- Poor appetite
- Jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin)
- Dark colored urine
- Itchy skin
- Fluid buildup in abdomen
- Swelling of legs
- Weight loss
- Confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech
- Spiderlike blood vessels on your skin
Some preventions listed are to not use illicit drugs, not share needles, be cautious about body piercings and tattooing, and to avoid needle sticks in the healthcare setting.
When you hear Acute Hepatitis that means it is within first 6 months of contact with virus. Chronic Hepatitis means anything over 6 months after contact. Hepatitis can lead to lifelong infection if left untreated. If not treated it can cause liver damage, cirrhosis (scarring of liver), liver cancer, and death.
Some of the treatments of Hepatitis C are:
- Antiviral medication to get rid of virus. The goal is to have none of the virus in the body 12 weeks after completion of treatment
- Avoid alcohol consumption
- If the infection is bad enough, surgery may be needed.
If you have symptoms, think you may have been exposed to the virus, or were born between 1945-1964 make an appointment with your doctor to be tested for Hepatitis C. To set up an appointment for testing at Windom Area Health, contact our Laboratory Services Department.
By Dixie Duerksen